Eleven candidates. Eleven!! I must admit, when the confirmed applicants for the UKIP leadership post finally appeared in an email yesterday evening, I briefly thought Steve Crowther and Piers Wauchope had accidentally inserted the names of a UKIP charity football team by mistake!
In truth, it was a heartsink moment. Eleven seems a crazily high number but worse, as I slowly read the names of those standing, I realised that I barely had heard of most of them despite being a very active member of the local party, getting on for a decade. I was also pretty certain that any ordinary member of the public would not recognise a single one by sight or name.
Now while anonymity is not necessarily a problem for a potential leader, as demonstrated by Jeremy Corbyn who absolutely rocketed to infamous stardom (and we must hope, will suffer an equally fast plummet to earth at some point), but lack of personal knowledge about our candidates is a massive issue for a large proportion of the UKIP membership who must somehow find a way to choose the best person for the job.
The worry is that we have such a short time to make the decision and too many offerings on the plate. Of course we can read the hopefuls’ manifestos and perhaps see what we can dig up online, but much of what we read will have been carefully crafted. In reality, the only way to make a reasonably informed decision is to see our beasts close up at the regional hustings.
This is the reason I am writing; a desperate plea to all members like myself who do not know the candidates personally to look at the hustings’ dates and please, please, get out there and really test the candidates. It’s only when you get to see someone in the flesh that you can truly assess what you think of them.
Indeed, that was a lesson I learned from my first trip many years ago to a local hustings for a general election. The Liberal Democrat candidate had looked very plausible in all her press releases and leaflets. Although I didn’t share her views, I was impressed with her presentation. It was only when I actually heard her speak in an environment that forced her to think for herself that it became clear to me that she was utterly useless. Thankfully she didn’t get in, but depressingly and not unexpectedly these days, she has since been made a Baroness as a reward for failure.
Anyway, I digress. While I would love to think that our eleven would all be worth their place in the premiership league of politics, we all know that while some will be very passionate, very able, and maybe great writers, they will be lacking that oomph on a public stage that is so vital if we want our message to be heard. Our new leader needs to be politically nimble, smart, with an agile mind, able to have a broad appeal and above all, to look and sound like prime minister material.
Love or loathe Nigel Farage, he knew how to hold an audience. In combat with our many enemies, they hardly ever laid a glove on him. We desperately need a leader, yes with their own style, but with the charisma and presence to work the media and make our party electable. I would strongly argue that we can only tell who amongst our mass of hopefuls has ‘got it’ by seeing them live, in action and under pressure.
You’d be hard put to to find anyone who wouldn’t agree that UKIP stands at a crossroads, in many ways a victim of our own success in the referendum. However, there is still so much left to do. We have a Conservative Party filled with those who still put personal ambition before the country, a Labour Party who are economically illiterate and the hopeless Liberal Democrats who spend their days worshipping at the temple of political correctness. Many on all sides are enemies of Brexit.
It is vital that our new leader rebuilds our strength, drives us forward but whilst maintaining the heartbeat of UKIP; the libertarian principles and common sense values on which this party was built. Who that leader will be is down to us. This is possibly the most important decision we will collectively make and if we choose badly we will have failed the party, maybe terminally, and then by extension, the country. So once again, I beg you, please visit one of the hustings events below and encourage as many other members as you can to do so.
Many regions have confirmed details of their hustings. Please contact your Branch Chairman if you would like to find out more details about any of the following or click on the link:
31st August – South East No link
3rd September – East Midlands No link
4th September – London Official No link
[Ed: do check UKIP Daily for announcements of Hustings – and do tell your branch chairman to send us their Hustings invitations so we can publish them!]